Divorce and break-up coach Claire Macklin joins us to share tips for navigating a family Christmas after separation or divorce.
Christmas can be a challenging time of year for separated families. Expectations and emotions are high, established routines are interrupted, time with your children is divided, and many of my clients end up feeling anxious.
I understand. I remember feeling the same about Christmas the first couple of years after my divorce, especially the first time that our children were spending Christmas with their Dad.
I had to decide whether to let it get me down or to find new ways to enjoy Christmas.
Change is always difficult, but the truth is that whatever your new reality, you always have a choice. You can let it control and define you, or you can choose to take back your power and consciously put yourself back in the driving seat.
These techniques might challenge you at first, but I promise they will help you in the long run.
Worried Christmas won’t be the same as before?
Whilst it’s true that Christmas won’t be the same as before, and there’s little you can do to change things, you can choose to reset your approach and focus.
Ask yourself how could you make it better for yourself? What new traditions might you be able to start? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t? By making this Christmas different, you avoid comparing it to Christmases past and instead open up the possibility to create new traditions.
Rather than focusing on what you can’t do, ask yourself what you CAN do.
Are you dreading spending Christmas Day alone?
If you’re spending Christmas Day alone, my advice is to ask yourself what it is you are most dreading and be honest with your answer. Is it waking up on your own, spending the day by yourself, or something else?
Once you know what’s at the centre of the sense of dread you can think about ways in which you might overcome that part. Write down your ideas no matter how big or small and consider how you could make them a reality.
Do you a friend in a similar position? Knowing someone who has already successfully navigated Christmas post-divorce gives you an opportunity to find out what helped them, and what they’ve learnt.
Give yourself the gift of taking power over your time. Ask yourself if there is one good thing about the situation, what is it? What WON’T you miss? One of my clients shared that they were looking forward to a more relaxed Christmas “more mess, more noise, more fun” without their ex-partner clearing up around them.
Are you worried how you’ll cope without your children?
If you’ve always spent Christmas Day with your children, this will undoubtedly be challenging.
Try to shift your focus to the time you DO have together this Christmas. Create plans together so that everyone can contribute to the new traditions and festivities. Your children will take their cue from you. If you are feeling down or resentful, they will feel it too. When you’re upbeat and enthusiastic about the time you have together, they’ll take your lead.
Remember, Christmas day is just one day, and you can choose to have yours whenever you want. When my children are at their Dad’s for Christmas Day, we have a full-on Christmas on a different weekend – turkey, all the trimmings, stockings, gifts, family over, the lot. They now ask “when’s our Christmas Day this year Mum?”.
I asked my son how he feels about Christmas – “it’s great, we have two Christmases!” was his quick response. When you frame this new reality positively, your children can see the good in it.
Are you angry your ex gets to spend Christmas with the children?
Consider things from your child’s perspective. Close your eyes and imagine you are them, seeing, hearing, and experiencing things from their perspective. This can be challenging, but it’s worth doing so you can put your child’s interests first.
- How do they feel?
- What do they want?
- What message would they give you?
No child wants to see their parents arguing over where they will spend Christmas Day. However hard it is, or however amicable you and your ex-partner are, try to take a step back from the emotion of the situation. Think about how you usually communicate with your ex and make a conscious choice to simply respond to them rather than react.
You have the power to shift your focus away from anger about the time you don’t have, to embracing the time you do have with your children.
I don’t want to have to see my ex on Christmas Day
You may have spent time actively avoiding face-to-face contact with your ex, but often at Christmas you have no choice but to see them. You can prepare for these times by using a visualisation technique called Mind Movies. Mind Movies help you to imagine the future you want so that you can make it a reality.
Imagine the scenario complete with emotions and interactions and run it through like a movie in your mind, rehearsing what you want to say. See yourself being composed, confident, and calm.
Now rewind the scene and run it again, asking yourself what you could do to make it even better. Repeat until you feel comfortable and in control of the scene.
By visualising the scenario your brain will remember your Mind Movie so when you do see your ex on Christmas Day you can embody the relaxed and assertive you that you imagined.
Choosing how you celebrate Christmas after divorce
Ultimately, it takes as much energy to worry and stress about Christmas, as it does to make plans to turn things around and make it better for yourself and your children. It’s up to you which you choose.
The key to success this Christmas is to shift your focus, stop worrying about Christmas Day, and concentrate on what you can do to make the Christmas holidays as good as it possibly can be.
Get in touch
Claire Macklin is a UK-based Divorce & Break-up Coach helping people to separate with dignity and strength and redefine life after divorce.
Visit https://www.clairemacklincoaching.com/ for more information and resources or to contact Claire.
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